Thursday 16 November 2006

Except for the recriminations

It was inevitable that today's repatriation of the bodies of the personnel killed on Sunday plus the body of Kingsman Jamie Hancock, would be reported widely. Indeed, over 150 websites have recorded the event.

But there are other things going on. While the BBC ran the latest non-development in the "cash for honours" case, according to the British military spokesman in Iraq, every British location and every single base in the south Iraqi city of Basra was attacked last night (Wednesday).

"Up to 26 Katyusha rockets landed on the outskirts of the British Embassy (illustrated below right) while the Basra Airport, which is also used by British forces as a military base, came under fire and was targeted by nine such rockets," the spokesman said.

A further three rockets landed on the military base at Shaiba, south of Basra while the base on the Shatt Al-Arab strategic waterway north of Basra also sustained four rockets. This, added the spokesman, was the first time the British bases had been targeted by such an intensive barrage of rockets.

Yet this news gets only one mention, and that by the Kuwait News Agency. Not a single British agency or news outlet has reported the news.

To be fair – which I am not very often – four days ago The Telegraph reported that British forces were enduring daily bombardments of mortar bombs and rockets at their bases in Basra.

The paper added that the weapons were believed to be sponsored, funded and smuggled from Iran whose border is just over 10 miles from the southern Iraq capital. Military sources, we were told, had disclosed that there was "very, very strong intelligence" that elements inside Iran had continued to fund and support the gun-running.

Add this the other reports coming in, not least Sunday's attack on the Shatt al-Arab waterway, and there are very clear indications that the security situation is not under control.

The makes all the more prescient a leader in the week’s edition of The Business magazine. It picks up on Blair’s Monday evening speech on foreign policy at the Lord Mayor's Banquet. When we reported on this, we chose to feature Blair’s call to maintain both the EU and US alliances, but The Business – like others – focused on his call for Syria and – especially - Iran to assist in the peace process.

Thus does the leader ask, "Why should Iran talk on Iraq when it is already winning?" Nobody has yet explained, it says, why Syria and Iran should lift a finger to help. Surely it would be more in character for the two rogue regimes to watch America’s discomfort from the sidelines, making the retreat even more humiliating and embarrassing wherever it can. It then concludes:

It is delusional – to put it mildly – to think that Iran and Syria will extricate America and Britain from a mess of their own creation. Why should they? Iran and Syria have won, the West is losing and the world will have to suffer the terrible consequences of this defeat for a very long time.
Well, to judge from the weekend and, now, Wednesday night, this could not be closer to the truth. They are winning and we are losing.

It is probably only through the miracle of Hesco Bastion – the giant, interlocking "sandbags" used for protecting British installations (illustrated right, as used in Shatt al-Arab Hotel) - and the inherent inaccuracy of the weapons used, that there are not more coffins on their way back to Blighty.

But, as many fear, it must surely only be a matter of time before the insurgents "get lucky". Then, and only then, it would appear, will the media and the politicos finally wake up and notice what is going on.

This need not be the case, and should not be the case. If there was action now, the situation is recoverable and the war is still winnable. By the looks of it though we, as a nation, are determined to leave it until it is too late - except for the recriminations.